Gas station without pumps

2021 January 9

One week into new quarter

We’re one week into the new quarter (10% of the way through!) and the course is going ok. Most of the students have finished the first-week lab, which consists of installing a lot of software and soldering headers onto a Teensy LC board.

The software they had to install was

Of course, each piece of software has its own installation idiosyncracies, different on Windows, macos, and Linux.  Some people even bumped into some problems because of running old versions of macos or Python (which were luckily cleared by upgrading to slightly newer versions).

The soldering was a bigger problem, because many students plugged in their cheap irons and left them on for a long time without tinning the tips.  The result was a sufficient build-up of corrosion that that they could not then tin the tips—even using a copper ChoreBoy scrubber to clean the tips didn’t help in some cases. In the in-person labs, I often spent most of the first week labs cleaning soldering iron tips that students had managed to mess up, but I can’t do that online.  This was not such a problem last quarter, as most of the students knew how to care for soldering irons from the first half of the course, but it may be a bigger problem this quarter, as most of the students have never touched a soldering iron before.  Some of the ones who are living here in town may be contacting the lab staff to see if they can get access to tip tinner or get some help cleaning their irons.  Those further away may be buying tip tinner on their own—I had not included it in kits, because I nad not expected so many to need it and it costs $8 apiece.

Grading is going fairly well.  My grading team and I have had two Zoom meetings so far (for Homeworks 1 and 2) and I graded Quiz 1 by myself, so we are keeping up with the grading.  He have Homework 3 and Prelab 2a (there is no Prelab 1) both due Monday morning, and we’ll try getting them graded Monday night.  We’re having to do most of our grading in the evening, because one of the graders is living in China, 15 time zones away, and none of us in California is an early morning person.

In other news, I’ve finally finished clearing the blackberries and ivy from behind the garage (a project I started about 2 years ago).  I’ll probably find some more when I cut back the kiwi vine (an annual winter project, in addition to frequent minor pruning during the summer).  I think I either need to get some female kiwi vines and an arbor for them or uproot the male kiwi.  There is really not much point to having just a male kiwi intent on taking over a big chunk of the yard.

There are still a lot of blackberry roots out there that will sprout new vines.  I’ll try uprooting them where I have access (not where they are coming through the cracks in the concrete), but I’ll probably have to do a monthly sweep of the yard to remove blackberries for the rest of my life in this house.

2020 December 31

Forty-seventh weight progress report and 2020 year-end report

This post is yet another weight progress report, continuing the previous one, part of a long series since I started in January 2015.

I’ve been putting on weight since my big diet of 2015, with occasional attempts to correct course.

This year has been a particularly bad one, with my weight reaching the highest value ever—touching the “overweight” range. I was doing ok in the first quarter—gradually dropping towards my desired weight, but once the pandemic started and I was staying home snacking instead of bike commuting up the hill to my office, I packed on the pounds at an alarming rate.

It probably did not help that I spent a good chunk of the summer and fall experimenting with bread recipes. A few of the experiments are recorded on this blog, but a lot of the more recent baking has not involved any recipes to post to the blog (making whole-wheat sourdough using minor variants of the bread-machine recipe), and I’ve been too lazy to photograph.

My exercise has been very limited—I averaged only 0.85 miles a day of bicycling in November and December and probably not much more in walking (about 80–87k steps per month—way down from 230k in January). Because bike commuting was my main source of exercise, I remain concerned about how I’m going to get fit again—exercising at home does not seem to happen, even when I promise myself that I’ll do some today.

I did get in some recreational bicycling today—bicycling up Empire Grade to see the dozer line at the top of campus (not really very visible any more, as the grass has sprouted) and even higher up to see the edges of the CZU burn.  I’m out of shape enough that I turned around after only 7 miles and 1150 feet of climbing.  There was not much to see—if I want to see the burned areas, I’ll either have to go further up Empire Grade or choose a different part of the burn to look at—perhaps taking a flatter, but longer, route up Highway 1.

Other milestones for the year: I got all the videos done and the closed captions edited for BME 51B, and I’m almost finished with the videos for BME 51A for Winter (only 10–12 more to go, or about 3 hours worth of videos), though the caption editing has barely started.  The videos are available on YouTube as two playlists: Part A (for BME 51A, 108 videos totalling 24 hours so far) and Part B (for BME 51B, 49 videos totalling almost 12 hours). I did get a new release of the textbook out on December 28th, in time for the new class that starts on Jan 4.  The book is available (as always) from, and anyone who has bought it in the past (even with a free coupon) can get the latest edition free by logging in with their LeanPub account.

I’ve also managed to keep my backyard mowed this summer (it used to always be a jungle of head-high weeds). I’ve almost finished clearing the ivy and blackberries from the area behind the garage—I’ve only got about 25 square feet left to clear—about one more week’s greenwaste can, though the rain may bring back a lot of the blackberries, as I can’t remove the roots from under the concrete. In March, I didn’t think I’d be able to get this far. 

My son and I acted together for the first time, doing a short promo video for Santa Cruz Shakespeare.  I’ll post a link to it when they finish adding the title and donation info at either end.

When compared to my to-do list from September 2019, my accomplishments for 2020 don’t seem so great—a lot of the stuff on that list is still not done.  Oh, well—something to do after I retire in June.

2013 August 27

Blackberry jam

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 14:38
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The 4 cups of jam are not a very impressive showing for an afternoon's work.

The 4 cups of jam are not a very impressive showing for an afternoon’s work.

Last Sunday, I made blackberry jam for the first time in many years (most years my wife makes a small batch, but she has been very busy this summer moving the school library out of the trailer and back into the main building, now that all the construction work from last year’s fire has been completed). I spent a fair amount of time gathering 3 pounds of berries from the cames covering the driveway and choking my backyard, getting a few scratches in the process. My son helped a little (maybe half a pound of the berries are ones he picked), but he found it to be hot, tedious work. It didn’t help that we’re a little late in the season, and so had to avoid picking the over-ripe berries.

Actually cooking the jam was fairly easy. After washing the berries and letting them dry for half an hour on paper towels I mixed them with 3 cups of sugar and let them sit while I sterilized the canning jars and lids in boiling water. I then boiled down the berries and sugar for about half an hour, stirring in the juie of one lemon at the end.

I tried to determine when the jam was done by using a plate kept in the freezer to cool a small sample rapidly, but the jam goes from being juice to being nearly solid very quickly. I think I overcooked the jam by 2–3 minutes, ending up with a stiff, though still spreadable jam. The 3 pounds of fruit and 3 cups of sugar resulted in 4 cups of jam, a reduction to about 2/3 of the original.

It is very tasty, so I think it was worth the effort, though I doubt that I’ll go to the trouble of picking another 3 pounds of fruit this year.

I’ve always thought of the berries in our yard as olallieberries (probably because I was told that when we moved in), so I labeled the jars that way. But I now realize that it is unlikely that they are, as the cames have mostly grown from seed, and so are unlikely to be any specific, named hybrid. The Wikipedia article on olallieberries (which I looked up to figure out the spelling) gives a nice family tree of various berries. The olallieberry is a cross between loganberries and youngberries; loganberries are a cross between blackberries and raspberries; and youngberries are a cross between blackberries and dewberries. I wonder if there are any genetic tests available that can distinguish all the different hybrid species—not that I would bother doing them on plants that are essentially a weed species locally. (I think that the City gets prisoners to use chainsaws to clear out the cames on Bay Drive once a year.)

While poking around on Wikipedia, I found out something I hadn’t known—the loganberry was developed here in Santa Cruz by Judge J. H. Logan in 1883. (My wife already knew this, and even knew where Judge Logan’s house was, but I’m rather clueless about history, local or otherwise.) I found it surprising that loganberries were developed here, as I’ve never seen a loganberry in Santa Cruz.

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